Hello iPad Forums!
I’ve been lurking on here for a while getting info about my iPad. I figured why not make my first post some useful information. I browsed this forum for quite a while trying to get information regarding the various office apps available for the iPad. However, about all I found was some single paragraph overviews of each of the apps. So I ended up purchasing several in order to find the one that fit my needs.
Hoping to save fellow iPad owners some money I decided to write up a detailed comparison of these apps. I got the idea to load files with lots of different formatting and features into each of the apps and compare the results from a thread on the xda forums doing the same thing for the Honeycomb office apps. I didn’t see anything similar on these forums so here goes.
Starting with word processing:
Here’s the MS Word 2010 document I used:
Docs2Go did the best job of rendering all the different fonts and had the greatest selection of them to choose from. It displayed pasted images but couldn’t render embedded graphs. It did a good job with the table as well, though it set all the rows to a single common size.
QuickOffice has the fewest fonts and is the only one that couldn’t display subscripts and superscripts. It did ok at rendering graphics, like D2G it couldn’t show the embedded graph, but it could show the images. QO was the only one that got the sizing of the table’s rows somewhat right.
Pages tells you right as you load a document what formatting it isn’t able to display. Its selection of fonts is the smaller than Docs2Go, but it has most of the major ones. Pages was able to display all the graphics, but did the worst job on the table. This is the only one with a spellcheck and was able to spot typos in the document.
I opened several other documents including old papers and lab reports, with all three and the results were mostly the same as above. I would say if you’re going to edit and revise existing documents Docs2Go would be your best bet due to how well it displays content and preserves formatting even if it can’t display it. If you want to create a lot of documents, Pages would be my recommendation. It is loaded with templates, has spell check and can export in both iWork and MS Office formats.
As for spreadsheets, here is the MS Excel 2010 file I used as a template:
Docs2Go was able to show cell formatting and alignment correctly. That’s about it. D2G has a menu you have to open to switch between sheets rather than tabs. It can’t display graphics of any kind (I didn’t attach the first page because it was blank) and it gets formatting of tables wrong too. D2G does manage to get formulas right though.
QuickOffice also fails to load any graphs or charts. It does have tabs for switching between sheets quickly though. When I loaded other spreadsheets where the numbers in a cell are too long QO simply displays a bunch of XXs rather than round the number off. It also has trouble loading large spreadsheets, but I couldn’t find any info on what the cut off is for files to be too big.
Numbers is able to show all the graphs and charts. It converted the 3D ones to 2D. For some reason Numbers places the keys to charts outside of the chart’s outline. Not a huge problem, I just thought it was odd. Not only can Numbers show graphs it can even edit and manipulate them. It gets cell formatting and tables right as well. It gets formulas right too. Data analysis effects like error bars and trendlines are lost though.
Numbers is the clear winner in my mind. The fact that QuickOffice and Docs2Go can’t display graphs or charts is mind boggling. That’s such a central part of what Excel is used for. It’s even stranger because I know that these apps are able to display these features in their versions on other platforms.
Finally, presentation software. I used this MS PowerPoint 2010 file as a template:
Docs2Go shows most of the content on the slides. Oddly some of the fonts that its Word app showed are missing from the PowerPoint one. Graphs show up here, although they are a bit distorted. D2G has a huge shortcoming here though. It can’t display a slideshow. Which is the entire purpose of PowerPoint if I’m not mistaken. Edit: The 9/1/11 update added a fullscreen display mode. It's not a true slideshow, but it could be used to give a presentation in a pinch.
QuickOffice misses most of the fonts. It also converts bullets it doesn’t recognize into dots. It can display pictures but not embedded graphs. QO has a neat feature in its slideshow mode. When you put your finger on the screen a red dot appears, so you can point to things as you give the presentation. As with its Excel app, QO can’t open large files.
Keynote converts unknown bullets like QO, but does a better job with fonts. It does the best job of displaying graphs and figures. It can do slideshows as well. It has the same laser dot feature as QO and also a timer to show the elapsed time of the presentation.
I loaded several presentations and slide shows I had. D2G and Keynote seemed to have trouble with ones that had fancier backgrounds, QO just ignored backgrounds it couldn’t figure out. QO had trouble rendering slides with a lot of text, it would just run off the top and bottom. D2G does a good job of showing this type of stuff as well as keeping text and figures arranged correctly. Keynote had the largest selection of templates and slide styles available by a large margin. If I were creating or giving a presentation I would go with Keynote. To edit existing PowerPoint files D2G would be my choice.
Price: iWork is $10 per app (so $30 for the set), but I would say this is a rare case where Apple’s higher cost isn’t just shameless price gouging. iWork is far more capable than its third party competitors, especially if you’re planning to be creating a lot of documents. Docs2Go has two versions: a $10 dollar standard version with less features, the $17 full version adds PowerPoint editing, PDF viewing and cloud support. QuickOffice just increased their price to $25 from $15. This puts it at nearly the same price as the vastly superior iWork set, or more expensive if you only need one or two parts.
Interface: iWork’s interface is simple and easy to use. There is a top bar with some basic functions that stays in place. When you select an object or start typing more detailed onscreen controls appear. QuickOffice has a more static interface. Everything is in the top bar and various menus can be opened to change settings. Docs2Go has the simplest interface. It’s merely a row of icons on the bottom bar that open pop ups with various settings.
Cloud storage: This is the Achilles Heel of iWork. It has no cloud support other than iDisk. Docs2Go supports Google Docs, Box.net, Dropbox, iDisk and SugarSync. QuickOffice supports Google Docs, Dropbox, Box.net, iDisk, SugarSync, Catch, Huddle and Evernote. It can also publish files through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Scribd, Slideshare, Yammer and Docstoc. QO has a fantastic cloud interface as well. It can show multiple folders at once, add new folders and supports drag and drop. QO actually does a better job of organizing my Dropbox account than the Dropbox app does.
File formats: iWork can open iWork, doc, docx, xls, xlsx, ppt and pptx formats, it can create/export in iWork, doc, xls and ppt only. Docs2Go can do the same minus the iWork format. QuickOffice can actually create new documents in the docx and xlsx formats, but not pptx.
Printing: iWork and QuickOffice support AirPrint, however Docs2Go does not.
I’m sure there are plenty of functions and features I didn’t mention. If there is something specific you’re looking for in the apps let me know what it is and I’ll see how they handle it.
Closing thoughts: I personally find the iWork suite to be the best. It's the one of the three I find myself using almost entirely. Given its tremendous capabilities (for a mobile app) and its ease of use its pretty hard to beat. If that price is too high though D2G is a good alternative as far as bang for your buck. The standard version offers a good range of features at a fairly low cost and you can upgrade to the premium version by paying the difference later if you like. Also, it has a nice desktop app that allows you to sync files over wifi. The "InTact" feature does a good job of preserving formatting the app doesn't support. In my opinion QuickOffice priced itself out of viability now. In terms of features its roughly on par with D2G, but costs as much as iWork. My personal recommendation would be that if you want to use the iPad as a serious productivity tool or will be working on just one type of file, iWork is the way to go. If you just want to make occasional edits to files, or don't want to spend much, I would recommend Docs2Go.
Edited 9/12/11 to add info on recent updates and price changes. Added sections on file formats, printing and my own overview. Added a poll.
Edited 10/14/11. I have sold my iPad, so I won't be able to provide anymore updates on new features or improvements to these apps.